Heart of Steel:
Steel Wool’s acoustic rock music is all about the message

By Francesca Fontana

The Register-Guard, DEC 2, 2016

As they finish their coming album, the members of Eugene’s Steel Wool will be bringing their acoustic rock to Cozmic/Whirled Pies this Friday.

Singer-songwriter Tim Mueller said he and his wife, Nel Applegate, were performing as a duo for a spell while working with a local nonprofit that Mueller co-founded, KindTree — Autism Rocks. At one of the summer camps about five years ago, the couple met their current drummer and bass player, who is on the spectrum of autism, he said. “They said, ‘Hey, we should be in a band together” — and that was that.

Steel Wool consists of Mueller as songwriter, lead vocalist and guitar player; Applegate on mbira, djembe, percussion and vocals; TR Kelley on bass and vocals and Randy Hamme on drums.

Mueller called their music "Acoustic Rock."

“It's a genre that doesn’t appear in a lot of the iTunes-type lists, which has been supplanted by Americana,” he said. “I write a lot of love songs, full of joy and sorrow,” Mueller said. “Songs that have a message — the music that we do has got a real activist element to it.”

at KMUN in Astoria, Oregon

For some songs, his wife plays the mbira, an instrument from Zimbabwe. “It’s a magical kind of sound,” he said. “It draws curiosity.” He added that some of their songs are “mbira fusion,” a mix of Zimbabwe music with folk rock.

One of their most well-known songs is called “Fat Jesus on a Bicycle,” complete with a music video filmed all over Eugene. “It’s a wise guy song — it’s funny and irreverent, but its basic premise is serious,” Mueller said.

On Friday’s bill with them are Gumbo Groove and McKayla Webb. Gumbo Groove is a bluegrass group from Eugene, and McKayla Webb is a young singer-songwriter. “After a busy summer, this seemed like a really good way to end the season,” Mueller said. The event also is a benefit, with attendees requested to bring any wool or warm garments to donate to White Bird Clinic. (ed note: Over 75 pounds of clothing was donated!)

Right now, Mueller and his band are recording their second album. “We’ve been spending hours and hours on it, we’re right in the middle of the project,” he said. Their first, called “All The Love In The World,” came out about four years ago.

And for Mueller, he said he is doing what he has always loved: writing music. Music, he explained, is in his blood: his grandfather and uncle were musicians, his older brother is a jazz pianist and his mother “had us all sing in harmony at Christmastime,” he said.

Now retired, Mueller has been writing music since high school, 'before there were video games.' “You sit down with a guitar in your lap and you play an open G chord and it sounds so good you can’t believe,” he said. “You write a song with the three chords that you know, (and get) the feeling you just made something awesome.”

That feeling, Mueller said, he can’t help but like. “It’s just there. It’s a lucky thing,” he said. “The lucky ones of us are the ones who actually get to find that thing.”

Follow Francesca on Email  .




a Division of 
GreyWolf Projects, LLC. 2096 1/2 Arthur St. Eugene, OR 97405 / Tim Mueller 541 521 7208

(c)GreyWolf Projects 2012-2017